Posts Tagged With: jumping frogs


Renola Simon, Sue and Cliff Granger

Jim and I often comment how lucky we are. We met Renola Simon and Sue and Cliff Granger in Lake Charles. We had planned on going back to Lake Charles to see them dance. A change of plans put us farther East, and Instead, we met them at the Liberty Theater in Eunice. Renola bought our tickets and we had no idea who was playing.

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This is the setting. The narrator on the left, and some members of the Jambalaya Cajun Band. The narrator is also a curator at the Arcadian Museum in town. He, and a local man, the steel guitar player, are experts on Hank Williams. They have put on a Tribute To Hank Williams program for 14 years.

Hugh Harris

Hugh Harris is one of the Hank Williams Impersonators. He sounds eerily like Hank Williams.  Williams was prolific. He had 11 # one hits between 1948 and 1953. I remember harmonizing his tunes with my sister while washing dishes, “…slipping around on me…your cheatttttttin heart…” Oh, the memories.

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Terry Huval, not only plays the steel guitar, but he also sings and impersonates  Hank Williams.

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Pope Huval is another impersonator, here with the excellent violinist with the band. She is really good.

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Eighty-two year old D.L. Menard is the fourth impersonator. He made a round of the crowds during the intermission. They tease him about his fancy clothes. He doesn’t look or sound as old as he is. He met Hank Williams when he was 19 years old. Hank gave him advice:  “When you sing you got to feel like whatever you are singing about, a broken heart or a party,  is happening to you.”  D.L. admits he didn’t get it-then.

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You can see the pain on Hugh Harris’ s face.  Picture taking on a lighted stage is kind of a hit or miss, and they didn’t all turn out well.

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Hank Williams band didn’t have a drummer, nor an accordionist. But when the bands accordionist came on stage and played a couple of times, the crowd really voiced their approval. They are obviously very popular in the area. We had a terrific time. All of the impersonators were good. I heard songs of Williams’ that I’d never heard before. I didn’t know that he wrote some of them. He was not only prolific but varied in his style and we enjoyed the tribute as did the full house at the Liberty.

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We moved on to a VFW within range of Lafayette and other nearby towns we want to visit. We had no intention of stopping in Rayne, which bills itself as the Frog Capital of the world. In fact, we passed through here in 2010 during a drenching rain. Jim stopped, I ran into a mom and pop grocer and asked why it was called the frog capital of the world?  The guys in the little shop said they didn’t know?  It is personal with me. I’m from Calaveras County, which bills itself as the Frog Jumping Capitol of the World and we take our frogs seriously. My boys graduated High School as Bullfrogs.

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The gray frog had an interesting plaque about humanity in a racially mixed Southern town.

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We saw cute painted frogs all over town. This one in front of the Police Department.

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They are cute, but not as cute as OUR painted frogs. (My kids would call that sour grapes.)

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And then…and then…? I found out why they call this the frog capital of the world.  OMIGOD. People in my county would balk if anyone even suggested eating frog legs. That is a no,no. We like our frogs hail and hearty. Of course, I’m playing here. But the truth is, Mark Twain wrote the tale “The Jumping Frog Of Calaveras County.”  People do come from all over the world to jump frogs during the Calaveras County Fair and Frog Jumping Jubilee.  Mayor La Guardia came to the jumps in 1931 I believe was the year. Anyway, Jim looked on a website and it turns out they dress frogs in jockey uniforms and have a frog race during their festival. I’m sure they deserve their title.

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They also refer to Rayne as the City of Murals, and they do have many of them. Hey, it is all fun.

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This weekend past was the 33rd Annual Mountain Heirloom Quilt Faire put on by the Independence Hall Quilters of Arnold. In 1976, for the Bi-centennial Celebration, cities and counties across the nation were encouraged to choose projects representative of our colonial past to help celebrate the Bi-centennial. In Calaveras County, the most lasting tribute to that celebration is the Bicentennial Quilt made that year by about 12 women who quilted together at Independence Hall in Arnold.

This amazing quilt was put together with thoughtful consideration for each community in the county, exemplifying the special attribute of that place in 20 blocks. Mark Twain is rendered writing his famous story of the Jumping Frog Of Calaveras County.

Old time firefighters from Mokelumne Hill.

The famous bandit, Black Bart was jailed in San Andreas, the County Seat. The document is readable, it is so finely worked in thread.

Because gold mining is part of our heritage, the blocks were sewn into a background of gold material.

The bald eagle of the United States flies above; the center of the quilt holds a Bear Republic Insignia and the Insignia of the County of Calaveras. All of this took permissions from the artist who designed the Insignia and from the county. What an undertaking; what a successful and beautiful endeavor.

As I reminisced over the various blocks two people were attempting to find the five frogs on the quilt. Four of them are pretty easy, but the fifth one is difficult to find. Who thought to put a bit of mystery into the quilt?
The great part of this affair is that the Independence Hall Quilters formed their group and have become one of the top quilter’s guilds in the nation. They have maintained, over those 33 years, a huge membership that hovers between 250 and 225. Like a family, they work together, socialize, learn new techniques, teach and revel in fabric art.

Their Faire is as unique as they are. Quilts on display can never be repeated. Thus a conservative estimate of 3,300 quilts have been exhibited by countless numbers of quilters over the years. Also unique to this Faire is the antique “heritage” props the men and women of the group arrange to enhance the quilts displayed. There are male quilters, but these men are the husbands who have become involved in the undertaking along with their wives.

The couples enjoy a set-up party; with music and great food. They do the same in reverse as each year the quilts are taken down and their owners come to pick them up. Some come by UPS and are returned the same way.

Besides the quilts and props and parties, the quilters sew a challenge quilt, a raffle quilt and provide multiple quilts for the Ronald McDonald House and Habitat for Humanity. They provide quilts for those in need locally as well. The money they earn from their Faire provides student scholarships. What a wonderful bunch of empowered women. And it all started with a quilt.

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“All you need is ignorance and confidence and then success is sure,” quipped Mark Twain, AKA Samuel Langhorne Clemons. In truth, success didn’t come easily for Twain. He had ups and many downs; he suffered hunger, poverty, despondency and had at one time decided to take his own life over his failures. Lucky for us, news of his story’s success, “Jim Smiley And His Jumping Frog,”  reached him in time and brought him back from his depression so he failed at suicide, as well.

He was here in Calaveras County at the time. The jumping frog story was generated by a conversation in an Angels Camp bar. Gold mining was one of his failures and he tried journalism as a more profitable job. But it was a hungry, cold time for him. He wrote in his diary: “January 23, 1865. Rainy, stormy. Beans and dishwater for breakfast…dishwater & beans for dinner, & both articles warmed over for supper. January 24th. Rained all day-meals as before. Jan 25th. Same as above.”

Before moving West, he loved being a Mississippi river pilot, it was lucrative too. He once bragged he made more money than the Vice President of the United States.  But Missouri was a Confederate State, and he and his brother headed west when war was imminent.
Before he got his Mississippi River pilot’s license, he found work at a Newspaper and worked in printing as an assistant. He’d occasionally insert humorous things in the paper anonymously when the editor was absent.  He inherited his red hair from his mother and probably her sense of humor as well. He was pulled at least nine times out of the river in a “substantially drowned condition” at which she scoffed, “People who are born to be hanged are safe in the water.” She never expected the runt to live. He was always in trouble.

This bust of Twain is borrowed from the Bancroft Library along with many other artifacts in a very well done exhibit at the 3 acre Angels Camp Museum. While Mark Twain lived in Angels Camp, he met Bret Harte and other famous writers from San Francisco, where he eventually moved. He was a humorist to be sure, and he is famous for his wry quips, such as: “A classic is something that everyone wants to have read and nobody wants to read.” And “The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice.” But, of course, for this community, he is of paramount importance which is why they are celebrating his many accomplishments over this weekend. Its certainly worth the drive. Especially since the Museum Committee has published all five of his various Jumping Frog story variations in one volume for sale at this event. 

This community had no paved roads in 1928. Someone suggested they have a frog jumping contest, as in the famous Mark Twain story, to raise enough money to pave Main St. Angels Camp.  And, so it was done and has evolved into the largest such frog jumping festival in the world. In fact, the Little Flower, New York’s Mayor, La Guardia ,came to see the frogs jump along with other famous people over the years.

The contest held the 3rd weekend in May attracts an average of 10,000 people to come see “the jumps.” Its old home week. kids who once jumped frogs, return in May with their children and grandchildren to try their hand at the $1,000 prize, but mostly for the camaraderie.

Gold may have been a big industry all those years ago, and established Angels Camp, but Mark Twain put Angels Camp on the map.

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